What is the difference between COPD and emphysema?

Thinking you may have emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be a stressful moment of your life—especially if you aren’t sure of the difference.

Many conditions overlap between the two diseases, so finding out what you need to know is the first step to seeking the appropriate treatment.

How are they different?

Both are diseases that involve the decline of lung tissue by an irritant like nicotine smoke, which deteriorates your lung’s air sacs.

COPD is described as a chronic lung condition that worsens over time, and at one point may become emphysema or another similar ailment. Therefore, emphysema is one of many diseases that reside in the larger category of COPD.

Other disease types of COPD include asthma, chronic bronchitis, and bronchiectasis, though each may lead up to emphysema.

More than 11 million people live with COPD in the U.S. That includes more than 4 million people who have emphysema, according to the National Emphysema Foundation.

Which has worse symptoms?

Because emphysema is a late stage of COPD, the signs and symptoms are similar. If you have emphysema, you are already experiencing COPD symptoms, though earlier stages of COPD will not have as dramatic an impact as the degree of tissue degeneration is minimal.

Symptoms include respiratory difficulties that affect your breathing health, including:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Heavy cough with some discharge
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue and exercise difficulties

COPD and emphysema are measured in stages. Typically, physicians will measure your present condition by the amount of oxygen volume you effectively breathe. As symptoms worsen, your ability to intake oxygen worsens to the point you may need supplemental oxygen.

What to do next?

While there is no cure for either COPD or emphysema, there are many treatments and lifestyle changes you can make to increase and maintain your quality of life.

According to the American Lung Association, your treatments may include:

  • Medications
  • Supplemental Oxygen
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Trials
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Palliative Care

Please visit your doctor to understand these treatments and which one would work best for you.


In Conclusion

Essentially, emphysema is a disease that occurs in the late stages of COPD. Understanding how emphysema and COPD relate will help you get the proper treatment and improve quality of life for you or your loved one.

Want to learn more about ways to improve your health? Please keep reading our blog and be sure to share it with your friends.